Once everything finishes booting, you’ll be brought to a text-based login screen where you can enter your user/pass. JUST THIS ONCE it’s probably a good idea to log in as root, since sudo may not yet be installed. In case you don’t already know, logging in as root is generally NOT recommended. One fat-fingered typo could potentially hose your system. Once we get sudo installed we’ll switch to normal user mode.
Now my favorite part, deciding exactly which packages should be installed. There are a few things you’ll almost certainly want installed, and plenty of optionals. Here are the ones you’ll almost certainly want..
- xorg – The base graphical system
- iceweasel – Debian rebranding of Firefox (see this link for details on the rebranding)
- sudo – Tool for running individual commands with root privileges
…as well as, most likely, a window manager/desktop environment. Some common options are (pick one)…
… and of course some desktop software
- vlc -Video Player
- amarok -Audio Player
If you want a graphical login screen instead of the black and white text, also get GDM (if you plan to use Gnome) or KDM (if you plan to use KDE). With Lenny, Debian recommends using aptitude instead of apt-get. Either should work fine, but don’t mix and match. For my system, I’m installing my packages with:
aptitude install xorg iceweasel wmaker apt-spy sudo vlc amarok gdm
At this point I suggest that you look for a quick guide on setting up sudo. The most basic way to get it up and running is to install the package and then run the command
to edit the config file. It will open your default text editor to sudo’s config file. At the end of the file, add the lines
<yourusername> ALL=(ALL) ALL
And save the file. This will give that username the ability to run commands as root. This is the most basic setup for sudo, and I would once again recommend looking for a more detailed guide online to help set up more options and improve security.
Now that I’ve got my essential software, I can reboot to access my desktop. If you don’t want to reboot, just logout of root, log back in as yourself, and type
to bring up your desktop. Continue to install whatever other software programs you require with aptitude or apt-get. If you prefer a graphical tool to handle your package management, try Synaptic.
Finally, you may want to reduce the space that’s been taken up by the system. There are many safe, effective ways to reduce clutter in Debian. For some useful info on trimming down the hard drive usage, check out 8 Ways to Maintain a Clean, Lean Ubuntu Machine. That article was written for Ubuntu but almost everything in there applies to Debian as well.